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LATEST REVIEWS
NOVEMBER MAN, THE
"Pierce Brosnan finds the spy role he's meant to play."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The November Man" is, at times, an impressively taut spy thriller, clearly owing a debt to James Bond even if you put star Pierce Brosnan aside, though it plays up the murky, cynical aspects much better. But while it's pretty good, it's also a movie where the title can seem unclear even after someone has a line that starts with "we called you 'the November man' because". The filmmakers tends to use ambiguity for good more often than bad, and that's the line between an enjoyably nasty thriller and a potential classic of the genre." (more)
HANA-DAMA: THE ORIGINS
"Yuck."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Have you ever felt yourself gradually turn on a movie? It's something that can often be sense in an audience, as each member reaches a different point that ticks them off, and the feeling of the group shifts. The mounting feeling that "Hana-Dama" is getting further and further from good is something different, and can make it seem even more disappointing than a movie that sinks from the start." (more)
CREEPING GARDEN, THE
"Best slime mold documentary you'll see this year. Or most years, really."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I take a certain amount of pride in seeing/reviewing movies like this at festivals, and I half think it's why some issue me press passes - a lot of folks will be trying to get into the big Marvel movie, but he is down for the slime mold documentary! And you know what? These movies are often some of the most fascinating wherever they play, especially when they've got a level of polish and style to go along with their intriguing subject matter, as is the case with "The Creeping Garden"." (more)
SEVENTH CODE
"One hour, one pretty good caper."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Seventh Code" is the sort of movie that can easily get lost in a career like like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's: It's a short thing produced alongside two large projects that sure looks like a promotional tool for its pop-star lead actress. If it is that sort of work-for-hire gig, then at least Kurosawa is using it as a chance to try some new things, shooting a lighter Hitchcockian caper outside of Japan." (more)
ME AND YOU
"Non Andare In Catina!"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "If "Me and You" had be made by virtually any other filmmaker, I would have most likely written it off as an awkwardly contrived and executed minor-key melodrama and just left it at that. The problem with that is that it was directed and co-written by none other than the legendary Bernardo Bertolucci, the man behind such masterpieces as "The Conformist," "Last Tango in Paris," "1900" and "The Last Emperor," and not only is it his first feature film since 2004's "The Dreamers," it is the first film that he has made in his native Italian in over 30 years. With a pedigree like that, expectations are naturally raised in the heart of any serious moviegoer but the fact of the matter is that this is a disappointingly substandard work from a director whose very name conjures up, if not greatness, a sense of artistic ambition that is mostly lacking here." (more)
MAN IN THE ORANGE JACKET, THE
"Packs a lot into a short running time and few words."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Why, Fantasia (and other) programmers, do you insist on scheduling nearly-wordless movies for 10pm (or later)? I get that they're often enough of an acquired taste to keep out of prime time, but it can be rough on those of us already coming down after 8+ hours of movies." (more)
MIDNIGHT SWIM, THE
"Interesting mystery covering a more intriguing family."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Sarah Adina Smith's "The Midnight Swim" is one sort of movie in the sometimes ill-fitting skin of another, and I wonder if shedding that skin would allow it to be seen more clearly as a sharp tale of three sisters rather than a plodding story of the paranormal. There are two strong ideas at play here, and the film could have been something great if Smith could have forged a stronger connection between the two." (more)
LUCY
"The smartest stupid thing I've seen for a while"
3 stars
Daniel Kelly says... "One might argue that film-maker Luc Besson has only been using 10% of his brain for a number of years now, channelling his once formidable creative energies into action vehicles headed-up by aged stars and hack MTV stylists. I'm not sure “Lucy” and the brain deserve to be discussed in the same sentence, but at least here, Besson is applying serious effort, pummelling his audience with the sort of euro-pop imagery that made him a star in the 90s. It helps to have Scarlett Johansson continuing her strong run of form into a role that requires a performative flexibility few are liable to acknowledge. Owing much to her supremely unsettling work in “Under the Skin”, “Lucy requires Johansson to become a disconnected monster, whilst retaining remnants of a damaged, distant humanity. At a punchy 89 minutes this provocative cocktail proves alluring enough, helping to eradicate the sour idiocy promoted by the picture's incredibly unscientific premise." (more)
WHITE STORM, THE
"For when simply going undercover or getting shot just isn't enough."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Sometimes, it's not enough for someone to be shot in the chest. They have to fall off a cliff, and there have to be alligators in the river below. That is the attitude Benny Chan brings to "The White Storm", and it's kind of a blast, a throwback to the operatic heyday of John Woo and Chow Yun-fat, only with a couple of even bigger action scenes than Hong Kong could have pulled off back in those days." (more)
GIOVANNI'S ISLAND
"A darn impressive film, animation or no animation."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's a whiff of nostalgia to the start of "Giovanni's Island", although it's more for childhood in general than the yearning for simpler, presumably better times that can often infect Japanese cinema, but that passes. Indeed, it's hard not to have "Grave of the Fireflies" in one's head at some points during the latter half of this one, though it's fortunately not anywhere close to as sad as that spirit-crushing masterpiece. What does share with "Fireflies" is a knack for telling a story from a child's point if view that would be impressive in live action or animation." (more)

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